This is the most difficult thing I have ever written and spoken. My father passed away 2 weeks ago and though it was a blessing, it was still quite difficult. I will truly miss him. This is the eulogy that I delivered at the memorial service.
My Daddy was an amazing man. He could do just about anything! He was a very successful businessman, an attentive father and husband, and provided many folks in this community with peace of mind.
Daddy always made me feel safe. He was all about making sure that our home was secure, that we didn’t get in the car with someone who was drinking, and he made sure that we knew how to defend ourselves. I still put my keys between my fingers when I am walking down a dark street – ready to scratch out the eyes of my attacker.
He could build or make just about anything. He worried that we would drown in the ocean, so he decided to build us a swimming pool. I remember watching him as he built a model with my brother’s legos, carefully drawing out the plans, completing all of the necessary research and then embarking on the project. He did all of this without the support of Youtube…after all, the Internet did not even exist! I was a very excited first grader! That pool became the neighborhood hangout and served my family well for over 25 years.
Daddy built his business from scratch. Many people did not even know that State Farm existed when he started out. I am often told by folks that knew him that he simply knocked on their door and appeared to be an honest young man, so they let him in and he sold them insurance. I worked for my dad off and on for many years – starting when I was 12 by filling in for my grandmother, who was his secretary – and I saw that most of his clients were loyal and sent referrals to him over the years. After college and a few years of teaching and staying home with my children, I went to work for my Dad full time. He taught me that you should never ask an employee to do something that you would not do yourself. If the toilet needed cleaning, Dad took care of it. If the roof was leaking, he donned his orange jumpsuit and checked out the problem. Dad did not experience a high turnover in employees because he made sure that everyone was fairly compensated and treated well. We all enjoyed working for him. In fact, the work environment was the best I have ever experienced.
Dad would probably have been a complete workaholic, but my mom helped him to understand the importance of family time. We had dinner together every night and after his business was well established, he began closing his office early on Fridays so we could all go camping together on the weekends. We visited many state parks, fished, swam, and enjoyed many a campfire and played board games in the cramped quarters of whatever camper we had at the time when it was pouring down rain. On one particularly rainy weekend, the rest of the family decided to take a nap, but Dad and I were not tired, so he taught me to play poker using matchsticks as chips. It was so much fun – he was truly amazed that I beat him, a former marine – big time!
Responsibility was probably the most important lesson that I learned from my Dad. Daddy never handed out money or gifts. He made sure that we earned our money. I remember raking the front yard and washing the car so that I could earn the $7 that I needed to get my ears pierced! I actually thought we were poor growing up. I knew that we had a nice home, a pool (but not a professionally built one) and a camper, but money always seemed tight. My mom made many of our clothes, we rarely ate out, and we rarely went to the movies. But Daddy really loved to laugh, so one weekend, we decided to go to a movie at the new duplex theatre. They were playing What’s Up Doc and The Nutty Professor. Of course, we all voted for the Nutty Professor, but you could hear the laughter from the movie next door, so Daddy took us to that one the next night. I thought we had struck gold. After I was married, I was living paycheck to paycheck and I needed to pay a bill on Wednesday and did not get paid until Friday. I stopped by Dad’s office to borrow $100 dollars, but it took me an hour of conversation to get up the nerve to ask. Of course, Dad just stood up, took out his wallet, and peeled off 5 20s without even thinking about it. I, of course, paid it back on Friday, but I knew that Dad would always have my back!
My Dad was an immaculate person as well. He was always well groomed and he was very handsome. I cannot smell shoe polish without thinking of my dad. Every weekend, he pulled out his oak shoeshine box and polished both his black and his brown shoes. He would also take care of any other shoes that needed attention in the family. His shirts were always crisp, his mustache neatly trimmed, and he was a regular at Paul’s barbershop down the street. Even though he loved to hunt, fish, do woodworking, and work in the yard – especially when there was a tractor involved – Dad always looked his best – shirt tucked in, belt on, hair combed…it was amazing. In these last few years, Dad has not known us and he has been unable to care for himself. While he was well taken care of and always looked clean and well groomed when I would visit, I know that he was not the person he wanted to be. My faith is God provides me comfort and lets me know that he is now whole again. The lessons he taught me and the love that he shared with everyone will keep him alive in my heart. This Daddy’s girl will always love her Daddy!
2005 – Dancing with Dad at my wedding. This is the last time that I felt that my Dad was truly “present.” I miss you Daddy!